by Greg Hindman
"Horan! You old shark, haven't seen you in a quine's age!" With a clap on the back he sits next to the old sailor.
"Haha, I'm a working man, Kornar. You know--work--that aspect of life which you so painstakingly avoid!"
Both men laugh at the large man's jibe. Some at the tavern turn to stare at the mismatched pair, the broad shouldered and well weathered face of Horan contrasting greatly with the thin build and finer clothes of the younger Kornar.
"I prefer to sail the seas in a cabin, not sleeping on the deck, my friend. Waitress! An ale for me and another for this scurvy knave here!"
"So what brings you to join the 'common folk', Kornar? I'd heard you were embarking on another trade run to further fill your coffers."
"And so I will once my ship is loaded. This is the first delay I've suffered since the port burned. I fully expected to lose half my trade after that. Certainly I'm not making as much as I was, what with the added cost of transport and storage. I've actually built my own warehouse inland now, it may wind up doing me much more good in the future so I won't be a hostage to prices when space is short again. But once they get those tired, worn vessels out of the docks I'll be loaded quickly."
"True. There have been many times I've wondered on how wise our Meltoleyn were, but surely they've made the most of this mess that anyone could. I don't think I've ever seen the docks run smoother. There've been those who've groused about it, but there's always someone with a complaint. Merchants are just like that." A smile slid slowly across the older man's face as he glanced at Kornar out of the corner of his eye.
With a hearty laugh the young merchant said, "Too true my friend! Now I remember why you were such great company on all those voyages! Always true the point without being malicious about it. So what have you been doing with yourself these days?"
"I've been helping put the pot back together. This ports been my livelihood since before you were born. My father, too. I figure a little sweat spent to put it back together is just good payback. Lots of others have seen it that way too. Helps that the Meltoleyn's paying good wages, I suppose."
"That alway helps, trust me I know these things," Kornar grinned. "So you've been sticking close to land, eh? I half expected you'd be on that expedition I'd heard the Ephors put together."
"Almost did. They didn't want to say where they were going though, a bad sign if you ask me. And I may have been right. Those beat up ships you're waiting to move got lost from the main fleet during a storm that made our monsoons look like spring showers. Those boys have been through a lot. Don't know where the rest of 'em are."
"Lost at sea. A terrible thing to happen to any man."
"Don't count 'em out. I served with Admiral Kattor, if anybody can keep it together and come back in one piece it's him."
"They sent Kattor? I didn't think they'd let him stray far from home, he really is the navy. Must've been really important. Wonder what it was all about?"
"I suppose we'll find out all in good time. Speaking of expeditions, where are you off to this time?"
"A trade run to Taltheran. Seem to be a lot of people with goods heading that way. And passengers too, well paying ones. You know I can't resist a good profit."
"I'm not surprised. Fair number won't ship out to there."
"Really, why is that?"
"Rumor going around that there's evidence some Taltherani involvement in the big fire. Been some incidents involving some of their people too, ugly ones. Be careful, if some of our hotheads don't start trouble, some of their's might."
"I'll keep that in mind, old friend. Anyway I can tlak you into coming with me?"
"Not this trip. But look me up when you get back."
"I will. Now if you'll excuse me I think as long as I've got the time I'll go visit Pinnol at the University. Good life, Horan."
"May the Maker watch over you, Kornar."
* * * * * * * * *
Leaning against the doorjamb, the merchant watched the young scholar working busily before interrupting with, "Pinnol."
The young man jumped and looked up quickly,"Kornar!" He scrambled to his feet and clasped the other man's arm. "What brings you by?"
"A delay in loading my ship. And I ran into Horan and it got me to thinking about old friends. Besides I never heard how you're trip went."
Both men sat, Pinnol with an exasperated look on his face. "I thought it would be agreat opportunity for me. Turned out to be a great opportunity for the bugs of Golaren to feast on scholars. Several are down with the fever, including my mentor, so I wind up doing his write ups of the expedition too!"
"So you never found these tribesmen."
"Or whatever they are. The professor was telling me how primitive watercraft could carry men such long distances as to get to Golaren when suddenly he said, 'Merciful Maker, is that what I think it is?' His eyes were practically popping out of his head, so I turned to look expecting the natives to be hiding in the brush or something. It was just the remains of a campfire. Still it buoyed our spirits that we were close. But that was about all we found, the sites of their campsites--remnents of meals fires and such. Never saw a native though. Frustrating."
"Perhaps another time. If they keep appearing, in time they'll have to send another expedition."
"Maybe. But maybe it's best they stay away. The way that 'new port' fiasco went for Rey-a-Man he's liable to declare them a threat and declare war just to regain some face."
"Yes, it's sad to see a monarch in such a state. He came to me for support, but he came off as such a raving loon I just couldn't. Of course things were going really bad for him by then, since the Meltoleyn had just found about his plans for building the new port no matter what."
"Ah well." A moment of silence filled the room.
"I hate to be so brief, but I need to see to my ship."
"That's all right. I'm swamped. Come see me when you get back."
"Of course." The two men briefly clasped hands before Kornar departed.